On an unseasonably warm day last December a Southern Oregon University student and a recent grad slipped into an unheated basement downtown — and didn't come out for 27 hours.
Forget homework or partying: The two 20-somethings were pulling an all-nighter to print 700 T-shirts — one about every two minutes — for their new business, Basement Ink.
Jess Gleasman, 24, and Alex Falkenstein, 21, are making shirts, and names for themselves, in the rickety basement below Aedion Board Shop.
As they try to juggle their other responsibilities — Falkenstein has classes and Gleasman coaches Medford High School's snowboarding team — the two have learned that owning a printing and design business means facing the occasional sleepless night, like the one last winter.
"We've got it marked on the calendar as hell day," Gleasman said, shaking his head.
"It was quite the experience," Falkenstein added.
There have been no 27-hour-days since then, as the duo has learned not to schedule too many orders for the same day. But Gleasman, who works at the shop fulltime, still sometimes faces 50-hour work weeks.
"It's nice to be able to use my (art) degree," he said. "This is something I really enjoy doing. I'm always down here."
When he's not in class, Falkenstein can also often be found in the basement, scraping ink across screens and onto T-shirts.
"I'm down here as much as I can be," he said. "There's definitely times when I'd rather go out with friends but this is something that I really want to do and make work."
Perhaps because of the company's low prices or the owners' connections to local groups, business hasn't slowed, despite the recession, Gleasman said.
In addition to doing six-color screen-printing, Gleasman and Falkenstein, also an art major, design logos and images for their clients. They have printed T-shirts for SOU's football team, the Ashland restaurant Pangea and Rogue Valley BioFuels, among others. Depending on the complexity of the order, the T-shirts typically cost between $6 and $20 each.
Basement Ink also sometimes makes free shirts for charities that the owners want to support, such as the Jackson County Humane Society and Ashland Car Free Day.
Gleasman and Falkenstein are environmental advocates who offer their clients organic cotton T-shirts and water-based inks, in addition to the traditional materials.
Their interest in environmental issues comes from their experience riding the powder at Mt. Ashland, they said. Gleasman, a snowboarder, and Falkenstein, a skier, met in 2006 through a mutual friend they both knew at the ski area.
Falkenstein showed Gleasman some of his "experimental" T-shirts, he said. Soon after they began printing in the basement of Gleasman's house. The following year, they bought a new printing press and conveyor dryer and moved to their current location, 383 E. Main St.
"It's a good feeling inside that you can start something and have it grow into a profitable business," said Falkenstein, who is an SOU senior. "It's exciting to me to have this opportunity once I do graduate."
In addition to printing shirts for clients, Gleasman and Falkenstein create some of their own designs, and sometimes sell their original T-shirts at the board shop upstairs.
Although the duo occasionally suffers through a long day — and sometimes night — Gleasman and Falkenstein take full advantage of one of the perks of being business owners. In the colder months, they frequently schedule work around their trips to Mt. Ashland.
"In the winter time we're usually working late at night instead of early in the morning, because we prefer to go to the mountain in the morning, when the powder's better, there are less people and you can get a good parking spot," Gleasman said.
"Almost every weekend I'm either riding in his car or he's riding in mine," he said April 6. "We rode there three times this weekend, actually."
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or email@example.com.